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"I'm slowly becoming a convert to the principle that you can't motivate people to do things, you can only demotivate them. The primary job of the manager is not to empower but to remove obstacles."
— Scott Adams
The Mean Boss is related to the Pointy-Haired Boss
, possibly edging into Bad Boss
territory at times. He's certainly given the higher-ups every reason to have confidence in him. He's competent, knows what he's doing, and keeps his workers motivated. It's the way that he keeps them motivated that's the problem. He'll yell at you for being a minute late, give you mountains of work the night before it's due, have a heart attack any time you even suggest that you might deserve a raise for all your hard work, and nearly rip your head off at the drop of a hat. He may be a money-grubber, egocentric, or just plain ornery. Very often played for laughs. Dr. Jerk
is another trope with frequent crossover.
Anime & Manga
- Tsunade from Naruto is very much this, especially in the fillers. As Hokage (the chief of the village), she is shown to have a very short temper and is strict about shinobi going on missions and reporting back to her immediately upon completion. When enraged, she would throw her chair and other furniture out the window, and have Izumo and Kotetsu retrieve them.
- Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist.
- In Bambino, Ban is assigned to work under Katori Nozomi, who never pass the chance to berate, insult or even beat him up.
- Catbert, the Evil Human Resources Director of Dilbert lives up to that title. He even controls the trope-naming Pointy-Haired Boss to some extent to make everyone else's lives miserable.
- J.C. Dithers of Blondie is quite possibly the Ur-example. (Of course, despite the fact that he fires Dagwood on a regular basis, he always hires him back for some strange reason.)
- Mr. Pembrook of FoxTrot is
quite possibly definitely an egocentric type - he once fired a massive amount of workers and then gave himself a $300,000 raise, and in another strip he sent out a memo ordering the employees to make themselves look bad in the company photo so he'd look better by comparison. He also implies in the same strip that he didn't send Roger the memo and that he wants Roger at his side specifically because Roger already meets the required directions without knowing it. In another strip he had Roger work as a clown at his son's birthday party (that's in Roger's job description; he thought it was a joke when he was hired; a lot of what happened at the party is likely best left to the imagination, but Pembrook begged him not to sue.)
- Stuart in Retail is a combination of this and Pointy-Haired Boss. Takes pride in the fact that most employees hate him.
- The initial district manager, Jerry, really fit the part as the jerk boss, leading Marla to comment that he was a "mean spirited jerk" (which Jerry unfortunately overheard). In the blog of the strip's character Cooper (www.coopersretailblog.com), he described Jerry as a "douchebag." In Jerry's last appearance in the strip it was revealed that he misremembered Marla's name on purpose.
- Butterflies Flowers: Director Domoto. Not mean so much, but tyrannical, dictatorial, and demanding. Also way hot and the Love Interest.
- Extreme example: Darth Vader.
- Vader implies that Emperor Palpatine is a far worse boss than himself, and Palpatine pretty much confirms Vader's statements in the expanded universe.
- Need we mention the cube farm boss lady from Wanted?
- Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. He always makes people work on weekends and continuously orders Milton to move his desk to increasingly absurd locations (ending in the roach-infested basement). Plus he took Milton's favorite stapler...again (which is one of the reasons why he set the building on fire).
- Philbin in Phantom of the Paradise. The musicians that work for him are motivated through a combination of casual threats and Speed, and as far as Philbin's concerned, they're all more than replacable. Plus, he doesn't take rejection by his Ingenues well- hence his conversation with Swan, the real villain of the story.
- Marty Wolff of Big Fat Liar is a complete Jerkass to everyone around him, but he gets his just desserts.
- Les Grossman from Tropic Thunder is probably even worse than Marty Wolff.
- Tyrannical Channel 8 Owner & General Manager R. J. Fletcher of UHF.
- In Horrible Bosses the three titular bosses take meanness to a new level
- The Psycho boss denies Nick a promised promotion and tells everyone it is because Nick drinks at work. The only reason Nick had a drink is because the boss forced him to have one.
- The Maneater boss regularly sexually harasses Dale. When he rejects her advances, she drugs him and takes sexually explicit photos of him to blackmail him with.
- The Tool boss has Kurt fire all the overweight and unattractive people and then moves on to the handicapped.
- Shark Tale: Mr. Sykes.
- Igor: King Malbert.
- David Hasselhoff's character in Click. He's also a Stupid Boss.
- Harold Cornish in Identity Thief, a Smug Snake executive who treats all his underlings as replaceable cogs who should be happy they even have a job. He announces for the second year in a row that the company isn't doing well enough to justify bonuses for the employees. Meanwhile, he has Sandy cut checks for "special" bonuses for the partners with himself getting a million-dollar bonus. When Sandy expresses confusion, Cornish tells him that Sandy's job can be filled by Quicken (the software), meanwhile people like him (Cornish) are the ones who make all the money for the company and deserve the bonuses, referencing The Fountainhead as an explanation.
- Averted with Sandy's new boss, Daniel Casey, who recognizes Sandy's skills, makes him a VP and quintuples his salary. On the other hand, he's willing to fire Sandy over a case of identity theft.
- Julius Root of Artemis Fowl is this with a dash of sexism thrown in in the beginning. Justified for political reasons; Holly was the first female recon officer, so he needed her to be a good example.
- William Shortpaws of the Geronimo Stilton series, is definitely a mean boss. Geronimo's grandfather and owner/publisher of the newspaper where his maternal grandson works, he never misses an opportunity to remind Geronimo who's in charge, and is constantly yelling at him or threatening to fire him. He's also very cheap, and in fact is called "Cheapskate Willy" (behind his back). However, he does pay his grandson the odd backhanded compliment when he does something particularly heroic that will give the paper good publicity. He also seems to favor Thea, and will do anything she asks him to, and appreciates his cook Tiny Spicetail's cooking to the point that he actually gets her get away with her attitude.
- Ivory and Jacqueline got this reputation as trainers in Ohio Valley Wrestling, after having been seen as cool enough on Tough Enough.
- "The Lovely" Lacey, leading her "Lacey's Angels", especially regarding her most loyal member, Jimmy Jacobs. However, when Jacobs started the Age Of The Fall, he proved to be an outright Bad Boss...accept to Lacey, who he was just mean to but still loved.
- Mark Henry toward Mr. USA Tony Atlas when Atlas acted as his manager in WWECW. This ended up costing Henry when he dismissed an offer for help from Atlas, leading to Henry being double teamed by CM Punk and Luke Gallows.
- Edgar's boss in The Act is not above smacking him around if he doesn't think Edgar is doing his job.
- The announcer in Team Fortress 2.